The future of music

30 Best 2020s Rock Bands (Top Picks)

December 19, 2023
2020s rock bands

I’ve handpicked the best 2020s rock bands, spotlighting the top picks that are defining the current rock music landscape.

This article introduces you to the fresh and dynamic groups of the new decade, who are keeping the spirit of rock alive with their innovative sounds and powerful performances.

Top 2020s rock bands

  • The War On Drugs
  • The Killers
  • Greta Van Fleet
  • The Lumineers
  • DMA’s
  • The Shins
  • Dirty Honey
  • Vampire Weekend
  • Cage The Elephant
  • Goodbye June

1. The War On Drugs

Ah, The War On Drugs – purveyors of a lush, melancholic, serene soundscape that will rupture your preconceptions of indie and plunge you into an emotive realm heretofore shrouded from view.

Adam Granduciel has a voice that transcends space and time, producing a sonic touchstone of unparalleled intimacy and pathos.

The War on Drugs gets it right with every song, an enviable talent for a no-frills, organically popular indie band that eschews flamboyance and attention-seeking with every humbly-exacted move.

If you do one thing for yourself this year to better your life, make it a War on Drugs playlist: start with the lonesome beauties “I Was There”, “Suffering”, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore”, and “Strangest Thing.”

2. The Killers

The Killers really and truly do not need any introduction, especially for the Gen X’ers and Millenials among us. 

The 2004 release of Hot Fuss and the ensuing hit “Mr. Brightside” changed the face of modern music – no exaggeration – and introduced the world to a mesmerizing, dazzlingly mature new act.

Their early sound was unapologetically baroque and theatrical, with strong performative currents, but their recent releases have taken a lusher, more poetic, approach.

The stirring, poignant ballads “West Hills”, “Quiet Town”, and “Terrible Thing” are delicate points of entry into their earthier, folksier new sound, and demonstrate lead singer Brandon Flowers’ unwavering vocal dynamism.

Indeed, their latest release Pressure Machine is one of the most serene, confronting releases in the folk rock canon as of late.

3. Greta Van Fleet

One of the hippest underground sensations of the last five years, Michigan-bred Greta Van Fleet singlehandedly brings the progressive, jam-session blues tradition back to life for a new generation.

Their silhouettes are deftly constructed, with a flippant hipness and stoner record store manager nonchalance.

Their sound is a magnetic reimagining of the catchiest, most sensual Led Zeppelin offerings – think “Black Dog” for a new millennium.

They are one of the most rousing rock acts in the world today and classic rock fans need to run, not walk, to the record store to relive the good ol’ days.

“Highway Tune”, “Light My Love”, “Heat Above”, “Black Smoke Rising”, and the Robert Plant-soundalike “Safari Song” will transform your entire life.

4. The Lumineers

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call The Lumineers one of the most delightful, buzzy indie-folk bands of the past decade.

Their acclaim came hard and fast off the tail of their magisterial first album, and they only rose to higher highs with their magnum opus, Cleopatra.

Their songs are like finely-wrought poetry; delicate offerings about love, lamentation, and a life lived less ordinary.

They approach music with an introspectively academic verve, and every choice is made with a sharp, discerning eye.

Indulge your cozy shadow self with their older fare like “Ophelia”, and “Angela”, and their new: “Scotland”. 

5. DMA’s

Like their peers, The War on Drugs, Australian-bred sensations DMA’s have an uncommon maturity of vision and elegance of sound for a band of their provenance and experience.

Every song pierces through emotional barriers, with a hypnotic grace and melodies that will both elevate and transport.

Their pensive fare is adroitly crafted, and utterly verdant with textured instrumentals and hollow, echoing soundscapes.

They achieved acclaim with their haunting cover of Cher’s “Believe” but their canon is utterly original. 

Soak in the splendor with songs like “Delete”, “Warsaw”, “Fading Like A Picture”, and “Lay Down.” 

6. The Shins

Cozier than a knitted sweater and more exuberantly arresting than a modernist sculpture exhibition, The Shins are the lo-fi kings of laidback cool.

Their piquant melodies, verdant soundscapes, and serenely pensive lyrics are heartening and leave a sense of warmth in their wake.

From the unlikely provenance of Albuquerque, New Mexico they owe much of their dreamy, baroque, surf undertones to songwriter James Mercer.

7. Dirty Honey

Styled like the hungover, horribly glamorous rock stars of the 70s, Dirty Honey is part of a growing (and thrilling) classic rock revival that has begun to gain momentum in the last five years on both coasts.

Close your eyes and listen to their relentless, valorous motorcycle rock anthem “When I’m Gone” and I dare you to tell me you don’t hear the echoes of Van Halen, KISS, Def Leppard, and AC/DC (You do).

Formed in Los Angeles in 2017 they embody all the delirious grandeur and sublime indulgence of that glittering city.

Their anthem “Rolling 7s” is plucked right out of the early 70s Led Zeppelin playbook and will have you in a high-spirited, raunchy kinda mood. 

8. Vampire Weekend

Formed in New York in 2006, Vampire Weekend have been well-placed their whole careers, riding the indie and college rock waves and capitalizing on the quirky, cool-geek aesthetic. 

They had a lawsuit over their album Contra which gave them a certain countercultural cache, but their unfussy, thoughtful silhouettes enable them to play the “plucky neighborhood indie band” role to great effect.

They keep ascending higher, with twee, delightful indie pop infused with chamber music and rousing, spirited chords. 

9. Cage The Elephant

Straight out of Bowling Green, Kentucky Cage the Elephant has been one of the most artistic, eclectic, idiosyncratic sleeper hits of the past fifteen years.

Their output is dizzyingly audacious and ceaselessly ambitious and they have pioneered a portfolio of zany and neo-surreal sounds that are, to this day, unmatched in the modern rock canon.

Their beats can be laconic, introspective, quirky, and cheeky, but they are charming throughout and cut an amicable figure in a music scene replete with aloof self-indulgence.

Give “Mess Around”, “Take It or Leave It”, “Black Madonna”, and “Whole Wide World” a listen on a breezy afternoon.

10. Goodbye June

From the first riff to the last audacious vocal wink of “See Where The Night Goes”, you’ll swear you were hearing the ghost of AC/DC or Van Halen – but no, that’s our favorite classic rock revival band Goodbye June.

As self-assured and swaggering as the classic rockers of old, Goodbye June cultivates a sonic vocabulary for a generation of restless, rock ‘n’ roll addicts. 

They truly are the dirty southern synthesis between Lynyrd Skynyrd and the vocal bravado of Angus Young. 

“Breathe And Attack” is an ill-mannered, vigorous entry into their gripping canon.

11. Joyous Wolf

Classic rock apologists, don’t fear – the best days of music are not behind us.

Not if California-bred Joyous Wolf has skin in the game.

They have a hard-earned, swaggering seventies rock ethos and a silhouette that is part Lynyrd Skynyrd, part Aerosmith, part Deep Purple, and all sensual, spirited roots rock.

Their Americana, Southern rock brand has positioned them as modern rebels with a cause and you can envision their impassioned, carnal road trip anthems fitting in at any highway-side bar. 

“Mother Rebel” and “Odyssey” will have you feeling like you’re in a time machine back to the valiant glory days of Purist rock.

12. Arctic Monkeys

Arctic Monkeys are, in my humble opinion, one of the most seminal, influential British bands, to colonize 1001 pub sing-alongs since its predecessor Oasis. 

Their poetic verve, lyrical dynamism, and metaphoric wit are more fitting for post-grad literature students than scruffy alt-rock musicians but they blend their writerly credentials with unbearably enticing melodies.

The English language is malleable in their hands, and so too was the staid conformity of radio rock when they stumbled onto the scene in the early noughties, transfixing listeners.

They have taken a decidedly mature, jazz-infused approach as of late and their rainy-day 2022 release The Car is a seductive departure from their earlier rollicking fare.

13. Dope Lemon

Dream folk legend Angus Stone launched his side psychedelic project Dope Lemon back in 2016 and has been making hazy, serene, slacker-ready fare to great acclaim ever since. 

Dope Lemon is packed with a beach-side Australian philosophy and a cruisey, easygoing cache that makes their tunes a favorite of cool kids and anti-corporate wanderers everywhere.

Stone’s stream-of-consciousness sleeper hit “Marinade” set the tone for his future work, and his 2022 release Rose Pink Cadillac is groovier than ever, with Grateful Dead and Cream-inspired art and trippy flourishes.  

14. Fleet Foxes

The reigning indie favorites of the cottage-core, cabin-in-the-woods movement within the eclectic indie scene, Fleet Foxes create poetry in motion in the form of elegiac sonic gems.

Their uncommonly poignant melodies and literary splendor add a distinctly academic patina to their pared-down offerings. 

From the musical hotbed of Seattle, their earthy, organic sounds are dense with the intrigue and delicate mysticism of the Pacific Northwest.

15. Lord Huron 

Although they came out of Los Angeles, the superficial smile capital of the U.S., Lord Huron is never anything but plaintive and earnest to a fault.

They have a potent woodsman ethos and a cabin-esque folk sound that haunts and enchants without fanfare or excess.

Indeed, their atmospheric, pared-down guitars, flannel silhouette, and lush, serene melodies are a better fit for a snowy Vermont sunset or a remote Pacific Northwest highway. 

Their magisterial 2015 album Strange Trails is required listening for indie folk lovers, and sensitive souls everywhere, but their cinematic new offering Long Lost is moody, evocative gold.

16. The National 

The National’s poetic songs are instantly identifiable by lead Matt Berninger’s gravelly, arresting voice, always with a hint of whiskey and nights spent reading philosophy.

Formed in 1999 in Brooklyn, they have lingered under the commercial radar for most of their careers but they have always had a fiercely loyal, introspective fan base.

Their catalog is well-stocked with memorable releases like High Violet (2010) and Sleep Well Beast (2017) which won a Grammy.

They have a rugged, pensive, pared-down ethos and a minimalist aesthetic that draws to mind the asceticism of Thoreau’s Walden.

17. Crown Lands

Crown Lands is one of the most riveting, exuberant, sensual prog rock/blues metal bands to come out of the music scene in the last seven years.

They have an earthy, off-the-land, campground interpretation of prog metal, though many of their luminous compositions are redolent of Iron Maiden.

If a bohemian metal band holed up in a mist-shrouded cabin they would produce enchanting, surreal melodies like Crown Lands’ “Lady Of The Lake.”

Straight out of small-town Ontario, they are champions of Indigenous rights and in their own, elusive words, are “painters of strange, absorbing universes.”

Oh, and their stylistic verve and uncompromising hair will have you envious as heck. 

18. Imagine Dragons

Love them or hate them, polarizing superband Imagine Dragons have relentlessly, consistently taken mainstream pop-rock hostage.

They are, quite frankly, everywhere with their soaring, anthemic melodies and their overpowering, audacious compositions.

An Imagine Dragons tune demands full attention, acquiescence, and extensive radio play. 

They are a sonic version of their flashy, mercurial provenance: Las Vegas.

They got their start as intriguing, buzzy indie-electro pop stars with 2012’s unexpected sensation “Radioactive” and their showy, flamboyant ethos has not wavered since, with a litany of modern staples under their belt: “Thunder”, “Sucker For Pain”, and “On Top of the World.”

19. Nickelback

You didn’t think we could leave Canada’s most hated band out of the mix, did you?

I’ll let you in on an open secret: Nickelback might leave some cold but most of their detractors secretly adore their chauvinistic pretensions and unpolished sounds.

Bad press aside Nickelback are the undeniable mainstay of the 21st-century music scene, and their songs are made for hockey night sing along’s, stadiums, and trashy road trips. 

With big fun and a big attitude, with not a hint of reflection or intellectual aspiration, Nickelback is unabashedly themselves and they continue to lure in new fans (and detractors) with their machismo and surliness.

20. Wilco 

Long-standing indie favorites Wilco have taken well-earned breaks throughout their cult-worthy, sleeper–hit careers, but they’ve been back as of late with a cozy, homespun sound.

Their new album is folksy and lo-fi, with downtempo beats, soft guitar chords, and an atmosphere of diffused light and intentionality.

They still have a modest but unquenchable anti-status quo ethos that informs their work, although their unconventional credentials are always well-ensconced and never overt or obnoxious.

21. Future Islands

A gruff, haunting, uncanny voice straight from the black lodge in an idiosyncratic Twin Peaks episode – that’s the first thing newcomers encounter when they give Future Islands a first listen.

A preternaturally eclectic academic bent infuses all of their rarefied, discerning hits.

Delightfully jangly and serene instrumentals that owe their allegiance to a soft new wave tradition, Japanese percussive flourishes, and the dissonantly cheery tempos of The Cure’s quirky best infuse their work.

Enticing and intriguing, Future Islands are without precedent and without competition, and they have raised the intrepid, lush stakes of past tracks like  “Seasons” and “A Dream of You and Me” with their 2020 treasure As Long As You Are.

22. Confidence Man

Straight out of sunny Brisbane, Australia Confidence Man is the surprise phenomenon that has taken the festival circuit by storm and captivated audiences the world over with campy, flamboyant performances and synchronized dances.

They started their band as a joke but decided that their cheeky, incorrigible brand of synth and silly lyrics belonged in the indie-dance corpus of the 2020s, and aren’t we grateful to them for it?

Songs like “Holiday” demonstrate their bubblegum-electro addictiveness while tongue-in-cheek “Boyfriend” highlights their flippant, sassy flair.

23. Metric

Preternaturally cool and unfailingly hip, Canadian cult faves Metric have lost none of their unstudied patina and unpretentious maturity.

Vocalist Emily Haines is at the top of her game these days, with unbridled energy, self-assured vision, and charming assertiveness. 

Their 2022 album, Formentera, was elevated electro, pop poetry, and synthy surrealism rolled into one unapologetic little number.

From unsettling soundscapes like “Doomscroller” to anthemic “All Comes Crashing”, Metric has not relinquished the throne of indie-cool, nor will they in the years to come. 

24. Tame Impala

Tame Impala is the electro-synth chillout project of Perth-raised eclectic Kevin Parker.

Tame Impala has managed to raise the stakes of what electronic music is capable of, with dazzling soundscapes, overwhelmingly potent melodies, and serene, entrancing vocals.

The result is nothing short of magic, a sonic charm that tempts and bewitches and eludes, leaving spectators riveted and sore from the whiplash.

“Lost In Yesterday”, “The Less I Know The Better”, and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” are all quite simply synth-sublime ecstasy.

25. Kings of Leon

Southern rock icons Kings of Leon had well-watered indie roots before achieving unparalleled success in the noughties and 2010s.

They became the heaviest hitters in the Southern indie micro-niche with 2008’s release Only By The Night but their recent When You See Yourself showcases their mellow, intimate credentials with a grown-up patina. 

As of late, they have returned to their Tennessee roots with delightfully jangly instrumentals, organically drawling vocals and cinematic lyrics that paint crisp, enticing images. 

Enhancing their indie cred and down-home roots, they have set up their own record label in Nashville, Serpents & Snakes, where they spend a good portion of their creative energies fostering their state’s homegrown talent.

26. Florence and The Machine

All hail the goddess of modern music, Florence Welch, a British songstress with an expansive, serene, piercing voice that takes listeners on an interior adventure. 

Her ethereal, historical-meets-modern aesthetic and compositions have garnered a sustained buzz and have brought the band both sleeper success and radio fame. 

Their music is plush, soaring, scintillating, and fine-tuned to create a visceral reaction. 

It is not uncommon to have the hair on your neck stand up at the dashing, binaural flourishes Welch’s voice can take with organic ease.

“Hunger”, “Dog Days”, and “You’ve Got the Love” are entrancing intros.

27. Arcade Fire

The eclectic, offbeat baroque rock icon of Canadian music, Montréal-bred Arcade Fire was every disconsolate teen and quirky twenty-something art school kid’s favorite band when they came into the scene in the noughties.

Twenty years on and they are still producing a strange, animated sound, replete with symphonic instrumentals and bizarrely catchy bridges. 

Their grandiose sounds have been taken down a healthy notch in their recent release WE, which showcases a chilled-out, groovier vision. 

28. Rival Sons

Although they are from punk-rock stomping ground Long Beach, California, Rival Sons have a decided blues and hard rock approach, redolent of seventies icons like Deep Purple.

Their zinging, electric brand of rock ‘n’ roll is pure retro goodness: incorrigible, thrashing, and packed with verve.

The riffs on songs like “Thundering Voices” have an eighties metal flavor while frisky anthems like “Do Your Worst” demonstrate a distinctly macho aplomb.

“Bird in the Hand” is a hard-hitting reimagining of the riverside swagger of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

29. Muse

With their mind-bending, unapologetic eclectic new release Will Of The People, 90’s British alt-faves Muse have established their off-kilter credentials for a new generation.

Their current fare builds upon the tangents they are famous for dissonant high-to-low vocal pitch, meandering pacing, and falsetto harmonies.

Their sound has a dash of the industrial, techno-age in it, as though they liaised with a very creative AI to forge an alt-rock vision for the 2020s.

For lovers of their enduring hit “Supermassive Black Hole,” you can expect a slightly electrified, politicized reimagining in their newer work. 

Their new song “Liberation” has a distinctly futuristic Freddie Mercury flavor. 

30. Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Academic and enviably lucid, Unknown Mortal Orchestra have perfected a downtempo, lo-fi sound that is bare bones but high impact.

Soothing, and serene, yet wrought with an inimitable candor, their indie beats make for great lounge or background music for cozy nights or introspective dinner parties.

The music resonates, filling the space with delicate echoes, smooth synth, and ghostly sound gradients.

You’ve heard their easygoing track “Hunnybee” in indie film scores, but expand your scope: “So Good At Being in Trouble”, “Multi-Love”, and anything off their 2023 release V will get you in touch with your inner solitude. 

Best 2020s Rock Bands – Final Thoughts

Overstimulated, yet?

I hope this list of the thirty best 2020s rock bands has left you wide-eyed and dreaming.

From folksy indie to electro to classic rock revival, dare I say that the current ecosystem of rock is one of the most exciting we’ve seen in twenty years.

Don’t put money on my predictions but I wouldn’t be surprised if the 2020s become a new golden age in the creative capacities and output of this ever-dynamic genre.

You may also like: Best Bands of All Time

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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